My 5-year-old granddaughter Ava never ceases to amaze me. For example, during our Thanksgiving visit, I watched her put together a puzzle, and what I learned about problem-solving rivals any MBA curriculum.
She sat in front of me on the floor to begin work on a Disney three princesses puzzle. First, she separated all the border pieces, the pieces with a tell-tale straight side.
Next, she gathered pieces with similar colors or patterns. Similar-colored pieces were placed in a group and set aside. Similar-patterned pieces were gathered and stored in another spot on the floor.
She then carefully began to assemble the border, roughing in the entire puzzle. Once completed, she studied the inside of the puzzle and began to match pieces either by color or pattern.
At times, she would simply sit quietly and study the puzzle, then turn her attention to the available pieces she had segregated by color or pattern. Often, she would pick up one piece and put it into its correct place for a perfect fit.
In no time at all, the puzzle was complete, and Ava beamed a grin of satisfaction that equaled the radiant smiles of the three Disney princesses.
Amazing. Her approach to solving the puzzle was highly instructive.
- First, study the problem. Plan an approach that will govern the problem-solving. Do the border first, or, determine the entire scope of the problem to be solved. Once you have it framed, then you can deal with the details in a logical order.
- Second, look for commonalities, for groupings, that can be treated together rather than separately. That helps to make the problem-solving more efficient. By grouping the pieces according to color or pattern, Ava could easily find how and where those pieces of the puzzle fit.
- Third, stop and think. Look at the problem. Think about it. It’s like the rule in carpentry — measure twice, cut once. Rather than charge full speed ahead, think. Plan. Then, methodically attack the problem in logical order.